The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Ameiurus melas
Ameiurus melas
(Black Bullhead)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Ameiurus melas (Rafinesque, 1820)

Common name: Black Bullhead

Synonyms and Other Names: Ictalurus melas

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994); Page and Burr (2011).

Black Bullhead is superficially similar to both Yellow Bullhead (A. natalis) and Brown Bullhead (A. nebulosus). Black Bullhead can be distinguished from Yellow Bullhead by the presence of dark colored chin barbels (vs. white or yellow barbels), a slightly notched caudal fin margin (vs. straight caudal fin margin), and a rounded, short anal fin with 19-23 fin rays (vs. mostly straight anal fin with 24-27 rays). Black Bullhead can be distinguished from Brown Bullhead by the lack of large saw-like teeth on the rear of the pectoral spine (vs. 5-8 teeth present), uniform color with no mottling on body (vs. brown/black mottling or spotting present), barbel at the corner of the mouth does not reach the pectoral fin (vs. reaching past pectoral fin base), and black fin membranes with contrasting pale fin rays in the anal and caudal fins (vs. low/no contrast between fin rays and membrane).

Size: Up to 62 cm TL (Page and Burr 2011)

Native Range: Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from New York to southern Saskatchewan and Montana, south to Gulf; Gulf Slope drainages from Mobile Bay, Georgia and Alabama, to northern Mexico. Apparently not native to Atlantic Slope (Page and Burr 1991).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Ameiurus melas are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL195320158Lower Conecuh; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Patsaliga; Pea; Sepulga; Upper Choctawhatchee; Upper Conecuh
AZ1904201120Brawley Wash; Burro; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Lake Mead; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado-Marble Canyon; Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Little Colorado; Lower Salt; Lower San Pedro; Lower Verde; Lower Virgin; Middle Gila; San Bernardino Valley; Tonto; Upper Little Colorado; Upper San Pedro; Upper Santa Cruz; Upper Verde; Whitewater Draw
CA1874200837Butte Creek; California Region; Coyote; Fresno River; Goose Lake; Imperial Reservoir; Los Angeles; Lost; Lower American; Lower Colorado; Lower Pit; Lower Sacramento; Lower San Joaquin River; Mojave; Newport Bay; Pajaro; Paynes Creek-Sacramento River; Russian; Salinas; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Gabriel; San Joaquin; San Luis Rey-Escondido; Santa Ana; Santa Clara; Santa Margarita; Santa Maria; Santa Monica Bay; South Fork American; Suisun Bay; Surprise Valley; Tulare-Buena Vista Lakes; Upper Calaveras California; Upper Klamath; Upper Pit; Upper Yuba
CO1969201511Alamosa-Trinchera; Colorado Headwaters; Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Yampa; McElmo; Piedra; Saguache; San Luis; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; White - Yampa
CT196020105Housatonic; New England Region; Outlet Connecticut River; Saugatuck; Thames
FL196619733Daytona-St. Augustine; Lower Choctawhatchee; Oklawaha
GA196520063Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Ogeechee Coastal; South Atlantic-Gulf Region
ID196319906Middle Snake-Boise; Payette; Spokane; St. Joe; Upper Snake-Rock; Upper Spokane
ME199920091Maine Coastal
MD197719803Lower Susquehanna; Nanticoke; Pokomoke-Western Lower Delmarva
MA194520205Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Chicopee River; Concord River; Narragansett; New England Region
MT1970201452Battle; Beaver; Beaver; Big Dry; Big Horn; Big Muddy; Big Porcupine; Big Sandy; Boxelder; Charlie-Little Muddy; Fisher; Flathead Lake; Fort Peck Reservoir; Little Bighorn; Little Dry; Little Powder; Lower Bighorn; Lower Clark Fork; Lower Flathead; Lower Milk; Lower Musselshell; Lower Powder; Lower Tongue; Lower Yellowstone; Lower Yellowstone; Lower Yellowstone-Sunday; Middle Clark Fork; Middle Kootenai; Middle Milk; Middle Musselshell; Middle Powder; Milk; Missouri Headwaters; Missouri-Poplar; Mizpah; Musselshell; O'Fallon; Peoples; Poplar; Porcupine; Powder; Prairie Elk-Wolf; Rock; Swan; Teton; Tongue; Upper Little Missouri; Upper Missouri; Upper Tongue; Upper Yellowstone; Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin; Yaak
NV1911202313Carson Desert; Central Lahontan; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Imperial Reservoir; Lake Mead; Las Vegas Wash; Lower Humboldt; Middle Carson; Muddy; Reese; Truckee; Upper Amargosa; Walker
NJ197219972Lower Delaware; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong
NM1957201518Canadian Headwaters; Chaco; Conchas; Conejos; Middle San Juan; Mora; Pecos Headwaters; Rio Grande-Albuquerque; Rio Grande-Santa Fe; San Francisco; Upper Canadian; Upper Canadian-Ute Reservoir; Upper Gila-Mangas; Upper Pecos; Upper Pecos; Upper Pecos-Black; Upper Pecos-Long Arroyo; Upper San Juan
NY198619902Lower Hudson; Seneca
NC1940201414Lower Catawba; Lower Yadkin; Pee Dee; Roanoke; Roanoke Rapids; Rocky; South Yadkin; Upper Catawba; Upper Dan; Upper Neuse; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Yadkin; Waccamaw
OR1896201312Hells Canyon; Jordan; Lake Abert; Lower Columbia-Clatskanie; Lower John Day; Lower Owyhee; Lower Willamette; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Snake-Payette; Pacific Northwest; Silvies; Upper Willamette
PA199119963Lackawaxen; Lower Susquehanna-Swatara; Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock
PR200420072Cibuco-Guajataca; Eastern Puerto Rico
SD197019701Upper Little Missouri
TX194820118Aransas Bay; East Galveston Bay; Howard Draw; Landreth-Monument Draws; Lower Pecos-Red Bluff Reservoir; Toyah; Tunas; West San Antonio Bay
UT1871201519Duchesne; Escalante Desert-Sevier Lake; Jordan; Little Bear-Logan; Lower Green; Lower Green; Lower Green-Desolation Canyon; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower San Juan-Four Corners; Lower Weber; Lower White; McElmo; Strawberry; Upper Bear; Upper Colorado-Kane Springs; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; Upper Lake Powell; Utah Lake; Westwater Canyon
VT198320033Lake Champlain; Mettawee River; White River
VA193919867Kanawha; Lower Dan; Middle Roanoke; Potomac; Roanoke; Upper New; Upper Roanoke
WA1905200511Little Spokane; Lower Snake; Lower Snake-Tucannon; Lower Yakima; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Columbia-Lake Wallula; Pacific Northwest Region; Palouse; Upper Columbia-Entiat; Upper Columbia-Priest Rapids; Walla Walla
WY197019964Crazy Woman; Little Powder; Upper Powder; Upper Tongue

Table last updated 6/21/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked for sport and as a food fish. In Idaho, it was probably accidentally stocked with brown bullhead A. nebulosus or with channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus (Linder 1963).

Status: Established in most locations where introduced. Apparently not established in Connecticut (Whitworth 1996). A single report from Massachusetts in the 1940s (Hartel 1992).

Impact of Introduction: Introduced Black Bullhead eat endangered humpback chubs Gila cypha in the Little Colorado River, and may exert a major negative effect on the population there (Marsh and Douglas 1997). Minckley (1973) reported that this species is generally considered a pest in Arizona as it forms large stunted populations that compete with more desirable fishes for space and food. Black Bullheads are voracious predators of newly hatched gamefish (Whitmore 1997). Introduced predatory fishes, including the Black Bullhead, are likely at least partially responsible for the decline of the Chiricahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995), and have been shown to reduce the abundance and diversity of native prey species in several Pacific Northwest rivers (Hughes and Herlihy 2012).

Remarks: Although the Black Bullhead has not been reported from South Carolina, it is probable that it has been introduced into the state. Tyus et al. (1982) gave a distribution map of the this species in the upper Colorado basin. Occurrence in Maryland is not listed by Lee et al. (1976, 1981) or Rohde et al. (1994). Becker (1983) states that in Wisconsin the Black Bullhead's distribution is much more extensive now than it was in the mid-1920s, especially in northern Wisconsin.

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous 2001. Oregon's Warm Water Fishing with Public Access. [online]. URL at http://www.dfw.state.or.us/ODFwhtml/FishText/WWFishing/WWFishAL.html.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Behnke, R.J., and R.M. Wetzel. 1960. A preliminary list of the fishes found in the fresh waters of Connecticut. Copeia 1960(2):141--143.

Bradley, W.G. and J.E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4.  201-273.

Brown, C.J.D. 1971. Fishes of Montana. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

Burkhead, N.M., R.E. Jenkins, and E.G. Maurakis. 1980. New records, distribution and diagnostic characters of Virginia ictalurid catfishes with an adnexed adipose fin. Brimleyana 4:75--93.

Cross, F.B. 1967. Handbook of Fishes of Kansas. State Biological Survey and University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication 45, Topeka, KS.

Dahlberg, M.D., and D.C. Scott. 1971b. Introductions of freshwater fishes in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:245--252.

Deacon, J.E., and J.E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103--118.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Everhart, W.H., and W.R. Seaman. 1971. Fishes of Colorado. Colorado Game, Fish and Parks Division, Denver, CO. 75 pp.

Fletcher, D. - Warmwater Fisheries Resource Manager, Washington Department of Wildlife, Olympia, WA. Response to NBS-G nonindigenous questionaire and other reports. 1992.

Hartel, K.E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1-9. 

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Holton, G.D. 1990. A field guide to Montana fishes. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, MT. 104 pp.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hughes, R.M. and A.T. Herlihy. 2012. Patterns in catch per unit effort of native prey fish and alien piscivorous fish in 7 Pacific Northwest USA rivers. Fisheries 37(5):201-211.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Appendix I -- A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Jones, D.J. 1963. A history of Nebraska's fisheries resources. Dingell-Hohnson Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Project F-4-R Publication. Nebraska Game, Forestation and Parks Commission.

Koster, W.J. 1957. Guide to the fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.

Lampman, B.H. 1946. The coming of the pond fishes. Binfords and Mort, Portland, OR.

Lanigan, S.H. and C.R. Berry Jr. 1981. Distribution of fishes in the White River, Utah. The Southwestern Naturalist, 26(4): 389-393.

La Rivers, I. 1962. Fishes and fisheries of Nevada. Nevada State Print Office, Carson City, NV.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Linder, A.D. 1963. Idaho's alien fishes. Tebiwa 6(2):12--15.

Marsh, P.C., and M.E. Douglas. 1997. Predation by introduced fishes on endangered humpback chub and other native species in the Little Colorado RIver, Arizona. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 126:343-346.

Matern, S.A., P.B. Moyle, and L.C. Pierce. 2002. Native and alien fishes in a California estuarine marsh: twenty-one years of changing assemblages. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 131: 797-816.

Menhinick, E.F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 227 pp.

Miller, R.R., and J.R. Alcorn. 1946. The introduced fishes of Nevada, with a history of their introduction. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 73:173--193.

Miller, R.R. and C.H. Lowe. 1967. Part 2. Fishes of Arizona, p 133-151, In: C.H. Lowe, ed. The Vertebrates of Arizona. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Moyle, P.B. and J. Randall. 1999. Distribution maps of fishes in California. [on-line] Available URL at http://ice.ucdavis.edu/aquadiv/fishcovs/fishmaps.html.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. 2nd edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA.

Platania, S. P. 1991. Fishes of the Rio Chama and upper Rio Grande, New Mexico, with preliminary comments on their longitudinal distribution. Southwestern Naturalist 36(2):186--193.

Rosen, P.C., C.R. Schwalbe, D.A. Parizek, Jr., P.A. Holm, and C.H. Lowe. 1995. Introduced aquatic vertebrates in the Chiricahua region: effects on declining native ranid frogs. Pages 251-261 in DeBano, L.H., P.H. Folliott, A. Ortega-Rubio, G.J. Gottfried, R.H. Hamre, and C.B. Edminster, eds. Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago: the sky islands of southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Fort Collins, CO.

Schmidt, R.E. 1986. Zoogeography of the northern Appalachians. Pages 137-160 in Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons. New York, NY.

Sigler, W.F., and R.R. Miller. 1963. Fishes of Utah. Utah Department of Fish and Game, Salt Lake City, UT. 203 pp.

Simpson, J., and R. Wallace. 1978. Fishes of Idaho. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, ID.

Sommer, T., B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Sublette, J.E., M.D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM. 393 pp.

Swift, C.C., T.R. Haglund, M. Ruiz, and R.N. Fisher. 1993. The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 92(3):101-167.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Tyus, H.M., B.D. Burdick, R.A. Valdez, C.M. Haynes, T.A. Lytle, and C.R. Berry. 1982. Fishes of the upper Colorado basin: distribution, abundance, and status. Pages 12-70 in Miller, W.H., H.M. Tyus, and C.A. Carlson, eds. Fishes of the upper Colorado River system: present and future. Western Division, American Fisheries Society. Bethesda, MD.

Whitmore, S. 1997. Aquatic nuisance species in Region 6 of the Fish and Wildlife Service. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Plains Fish and Wildlife Mangement Assistance Office, Pierre, SD.

Wydoski, R.S., and R.R. Whitney. 1979. Inland fishes of Washington. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., and Neilson, M.E.

Revision Date: 6/28/2022

Peer Review Date: 5/29/2012

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., and Neilson, M.E., 2024, Ameiurus melas (Rafinesque, 1820): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=730, Revision Date: 6/28/2022, Peer Review Date: 5/29/2012, Access Date: 6/22/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/22/2024].

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